News

  • October 11, 2018 - Philadelphia: Retired Judge Doris Smith Ribner, former Interbranch Commission member and current Equal Opportunity and Diversity Committee member, organized a summit on the law on domestic violence in Pennsylvania. Criminal Justice Committee Chair, Khadija Diggs, facilitated the second panel of the summit on the enforcement of domestic violence law, and Interpreter Services Committee member, Judge Ida Chen, spoke on Protection from Abuse orders during the summit.
  • October 25, 2018 - Harrisburg: The Commission held its regular Quarterly Meeting at the Pennsylvania Judicial Center.
  • November 2, 2018 - Pittsburgh: The Commission convened a meeting of a statewide stakeholders group to assist victims of human trafficking. The Commission and stakeholders are working with the Pennsylvania Office of Victims Services to help coordinate the statewide response to trafficking victims by creating a “Guiding Principles” document that will assist jurisdictions with responding appropriately to these traumatized victims.
  • November 10, 2018 – Hershey: Executive Director McCormick spoke on sexual harassment and assault at the fall retreat of the PA Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession, “Time’s Up! Working to Eliminate Harassment and Discrimination.”

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Upcoming Events

  • March 14, 2019 - Philadelphia: The Commission’s next Quarterly Meeting will take place. The meeting will also include a public program featuring a keynote address by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd and the presentation of two new guides from the Commission. The program is free, but space is limited, so please register here. One and a half hours of ethics CLE credit are also available for attorneys.
  • April 4, 2019 – Philadelphia The PBA Committee on Civil and Equal Rights is conducting a Civil Rights Symposium. The topics include a review of the most significant civil rights cases in the past year, a review of the landscape on civil rights legislation, and litigating §1983 claims. Along with two other panelists, Interpreter Services Committee Chair Lenny Rivera will be speaking on protecting non-citizen clients’ rights in the courtroom. Executive Director McCormick will moderate the panel discussion.
  • May 19-21, 2019 – Miami, FL: Executive Director McCormick will attend and speak at the Annual Meeting of the National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness.
  • June 6-7, 2019 - Harrisburg: Executive Director McCormick will speak on implicit bias in the criminal justice system at the PBI Criminal Law Symposium.

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The Interbranch Commission implements recommendations from the Report of The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial, and Gender Bias in The Justice System. View the Report

About Us

The Interbranch Commission's genesis was a three-year study conducted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to determine whether racial or gender bias played a role in the justice system.  The study was initiated in the fall of 1999 by then Chief Justice John Flaherty who appointed the Supreme Court Committee on Racial, and Gender Bias in the Justice System to conduct it.  In March 2003, the Committee completed its study and submitted its 550-page Final Report with 173 recommendations to the Court.  Eighteen months later, led by the Supreme Court, the leaders of the three branches of Pennsylvania state government announced the formation of a new Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness. The Interbranch Commission was charged with the responsibility of implementing the extensive recommendations from the study.

Considered a model among the nation's courts for addressing bias, the Interbranch Commission applies the resources of all three government branches to the implementation of the recommendations from the Court's study. Pursuant to its Mission Statement, the Commission also seeks to "raise both public and professional awareness of the impact of race, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability on the fair delivery of justice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; suggest ways to reduce or eliminate such bias or invidious discrimination within all branches of government and within the legal profession; and increase public confidence in the fairness of all three branches of government in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

Funded by the Legislature through the judicial branch, the Interbranch Commission has been endorsed and supported by the three branches of Pennsylvania government. Pursuant to the Commission's Bylaws, each branch appoints eight members of the Commission, for a total of 24 members. The members are diverse - geographically, racially, ethnically and by gender. All members are assigned to one or more of the six Commission Committees, including Criminal Justice, Jury Service, Interpreter Services, GLBT Rights, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Victims, and Equal Opportunity and Diversity.

The full membership of the Interbranch Commission meets quarterly in one of three locations in the Commonwealth: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or Harrisburg. One of the quarterly meetings is conducted for the public each year at which time the Commission's Annual Report is presented.

In the five years since its inception, the Commission has made great strides toward achieving its goals.  Among other things, the Commission has devised a statewide policy for the Pennsylvania courts on Non-Discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity, played a critical role in the passage of landmark legislation on the provision of interpreter services in the courts and administrative agencies, and produced a key report on enhancing the safety of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Pennsylvania's courthouses.

The Commission has also submitted a report and action plan to the Supreme Court for standardizing jury selection procedures in the state and increasing diversity among jury members, and is currently working on standardizing second parent adoption procedures throughout the Commonwealth. Reducing disparities within the criminal justice system is also a priority for the Commission, specifically in the application of the death penalty, in the operation of the indigent defense system and within the juvenile justice system. For more information on the work of all six of the Committees, see the website's Committee section.